Awhile ago, we had caught the last half of Barbershop (2002) on TV. Getting caught up in the fun of the film, we ended up renting Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004) soon after. While not as good as the first, it still was enjoyable. So when we heard that Queen Latifah was doing a spin-off of this franchise, namely Beauty Shop, we figured it would be worth checking out. So was Queen Latifah going to be able to take this spin-off and create something worth watching, or was this going to be one Shop that should have never opened it’s doors?
Queen Latifah seems to pick her roles without thinking too much about them. She goes from duds with past-their-prime actors (Bringing Down The House) to hits with relative newcomers (Taxi (2004)). Is she just trying to cash in while her star is hot or what?
When Latifah’s going strong, she puts the viewer at ease with the way she acts – she has a natural screen presence, and looks extremely comfortable in front of the cameras. That comfort-ability translates well to the audience, and they are able to easily associate her with any character she portrays When she’s in a role she doesn’t feel comfortable with, she tends to be rather awkward in everything she does on-screen. Watching those films is like watching “Being Bobby Brown” – it’s unnatural, yet the viewer will be hard-pressed to turn away.
Thankfully, Beauty Shop is one of the good ones. Queen Latifah is very believable and down-to-earth in her role as struggling shop owner Gina, and the viewer will easily be able to connect with her. Her attitude and heart are the real base of the film, and all of the other characters take their cue from her.
The rest of the cast in Beauty Shop is, for the most part, pretty decent. Alicia Silverstone (who looks almost anorexic after her enormous weight loss) does a pretty good job in her first role in quite a while as the only white girl working in the shop, and Djimon Hounsou also does a decent job as the kindhearted electrician living above the shop. Kevin Bacon turns in a fun performance as well as the uptight heavily-accented owner of the posh salon Latifah used to work at. Mina Suvari is a bit ill-used as an uppity rich girl, but Andie MacDowell looks to be having more fun than the viewer has seen from her in a long time.
The plot, as in both Barbershop and it’s sequel, tends to meander quite a bit before finally getting to the point. It’s not really the backbone of the film, more of an underlying theme that the film tends to stick by. The plot is very general (a girl quits her job and opens her own business), but the film uses that as a jumping off point to create a film that basically just follows Gina around as she goes about her business. While this broad plot is unusual for a film, these films thrive on it, as it allows a lot of free-flowing scenes to emerge. It’s unusual, but this approach works for Beauty Shop.
Maybe Queen Latifah is starting to choose her roles with a little more caution, and at least a once-through reading. Let’s hope so. While Beauty Shop doesn’t beat out Barbershop (2002) as the best of the salon films, it also doesn’t stand out as horrible either.
Hopefully, Queen Latifah will take the success of this film as a sign to stick to films that sound fun to her, rather than which ones pay the most.
Go out and rent Beauty Shop today if you are a fan of either Barbershop (2002) or it’s sequel.